Hornets commonly get confused for wasps, and that’s because they’re actually a type of wasp themselves. They’re the largest of the social wasps, and can reach over 2 inches in length.
If you’ve read our previous blog entry Bees Versus Wasps, you’d know wasps are essentially bigger and meaner than bees. Well, hornets are essentially bigger and meaner than wasps! The good news is that the only hornet species to live in the US is the European hornet, and they aren’t as aggressive as other hornet types.
In this blog entry, we’ll be taking a look at some of the key differences between the two in several key categories.
Wasps – while they can range in size depending on age and species, they’re typically a quarter of an inch to an inch long. They vary in color, but one of the most common wasps are yellowjacket wasps (often mistaken for bees), and they have shiny yellow and black striped bodies. They have 2 antennae, 2 sets of wings and 6 legs, and an hourglass or “pinched-in” waists.
They have mandibles or chewing mouthparts, and ovipositors or stingers which they use to sting when threatened, and to lay eggs.
Hornets – while other hornet species can grow to be over 2 inches, the European hornet can grow to be about an inch and a half long. They’re brown with yellow and orange stripes. They have 2 antennae, 2 sets of golden-brown wings, and 6 legs. Similar to wasps, they also have an hourglass or “pinched-in” waists.
They also have mandibles and ovipositors.
Wasps – they can build nests on the ground (such as yellowjacket wasps) or they can build nests hanging from trees (such as what paper wasps build). These nests are typically straw-colored or grayish, and may appear papery depending on the species. They are typically ball-shaped.
There may be hexagonal cells inside the wasp nest, but you really shouldn’t go close enough to look (even if you think it’s an abandoned nest).
Hornets – very similar to the wasp nest described above, hornet nests are oval-shaped and may appear to be made out of paper. It’s not actually paper though, but is a paper-like substance made from a mixture of their saliva and wood. Unlike some wasps that can build their nest on the ground, hornet nests are usually high above ground, such as a tree or utility pole.
Both wasps and hornets can be found nesting in attics, verandas, ceilings, and similar structures in and around people’s homes.
BEHAVIOR AND DIET:
Both wasps and hornets are generally scavengers, and will feed on other insects, decaying fruit, or human food left lying around. Wasps generally have more of a sweet tooth than their hornet relatives.
HOW DANGEROUS ARE THEY?
Both wasp and hornet stings may be painful and cause redness, swelling, and itchiness. If a person is stung and they develop a rash or they start to wheeze and have trouble breathing, they may be having an allergic reaction – in which case, they need immediate medical attention.
Unlike bees (they can only sting once), wasps and hornets can sting multiple times, making them so much more dangerous. The more there are in the area, the more danger you are in – so avoid “threatening” them by going near their nests.
HOW DO YOU GET RID OF THEM?
Don’t have readily available food sources in and around your home that makes your property just a little bit more inviting for them. Other than that, we strongly suggest not taking care of the problem yourself – get in touch with your local pest control company so they can safely get rid of wasps and hornets for you.
Polistes Carolina, or the red wasp, is one of two types of red paper wasp. The Red Wasp is native to the United States, most prevalent in the Eastern and Mideastern regions of the country. Their common name is because of their reddish-brown coloring, and they have dark-colored wings, a brown stripe on their abdomen, and very restricted yellow markings. They are about an inch in length, with females having more triangular faces and shorter antennae.
They’re known to construct some of the largest nests of any wasp species, their umbrella-shaped honeycombed- looking nests hanging from branches, trees, and other such structures and they often prefer protected spaces so you may find them around your home.
These wasps create their papery nests from chewing and regurgitating harvested wood and plant fibers. They don’t actually eat these wood and plant fibers – their diet consists of flies, spiders, caterpillars, bees, and other wasps. They also eat nectar from flowers and plants, and are actually fond of sweet foods so you may find them hanging around discarded human food as well.
The Red Wasp is a social wasp and will attack to defend, though they are considered to be a nuisance pest and not dangerous unless you’re allergic to stings – regardless, their stings are painful (may be a sharp, burning sensation for you), so it’s best you stay clear of them altogether. An interesting sting about Red Wasps is that they release pheromones to alert other wasps in the area of danger, and they can quickly swarm you – so if you’ll attempt to get rid of their nest by yourself, be very careful! Or better yet, get in touch with a professional pest control company to do it safely for you.
They are most active during the day, so it’s best to attempt to remove the wasp nest during dusk and nighttime hours, and they are more lethargic in cooler temperatures.
If you get stung by a wasp and you have an allergic reaction, some of these symptoms may be: hives, itching, flushed or pale skin, swelling of throat and tongue, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you experience these, seek medical attention immediately. More extreme symptoms may be a weak, rapid pulse and loss of consciousness. While these extreme symptoms are rare, they can be fatal.
The young and the elderly may be especially susceptible to the effects of a Red Wasp’s sting, as they do inject venom into their victims when stinging. The more stings a person gets, the more their risks of such shock increases. If you’re not exhibiting an allergic reaction, relieve the pain using cold compresses and take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. If you experience localized swelling from the sting, take an antihistamine to reduce it.
Open or hollow spaces on the outside of your house may attract wasps seeking to build their nests, and open waste bins, garbage receptacles, and compost serve as food sources for them so make sure you keep those covered properly. If you have a Red Wasp infestation, be safe and have them professionally removed.
The Great Black Wasp, scientific name Sphex pensylvanicus, is a species of digger wasp found across most of the Continental United States and northern Mexico. They are also called the Katydid Hunter and Steel-blue Cricket Hunter, though the latter name is also shared with a different wasp species.
Male black wasps are about 1.1 inches long, while females black wasps are slightly larger at about 1.3 inches long. They have entirely semi-gloss black bodies with thin waists and very spiny legs. Heavy-duty mandibles decorate their large heads, and females sport stingers on the tips of their abdomen (males do not have stingers). They have large, iridescent wings that can be folded flat over their abdomen.
They are solitary hunting wasps, and you’ll find them most active during summer peacefully sipping on nectar and munching on pollen. Their young though are a different story – they’re carnivores. An adult female black wasp will lay her fertilized eggs in an underground nest then go off to hunt katydid, cricket, grasshopper, or another similar insect to take back to the underground nest, alive but paralyzed from the mother wasp’s sting so they can be as fresh as possible for their intended purpose. Wasp eggs are then glued to the underside of the paralyzed insects, and once the egg hatches, the emerging larvae have instant access to food which they will devour as they grow and develop. Before the mother wasp leaves her eggs to their own fate, she closes the nest chamber and surrounding tunnels by filling it with soil and systematically tamping it down, often vibrating her abdomen to effectively act as a jackhammer. An interesting thing that happens is, sometimes the mother wasp may use tools such as a small leaf, twig, or pebble to aid in her efforts.
The mother wasp will spend a significant amount of time hunting food for her offspring, and while carrying paralyzed insects, she will be vulnerable to birds – particularly the house sparrow and catbird – stealing her victims. This is known as kleptoparasitism, which is when one organism benefits from another organism by stealing their caught, collected, or stored food.
Solitary wasps such as the great black wasp are much less aggressive than your average wasp and will not sting unless they feel very threatened. Their stings are painful, but will not swell like the stings from other wasps. Their stings are generally considered not dangerous, unless you have an allergy to insect stings – in which case, seek medical attention immediately.
If you find a lot of these wasps on your property and want to get rid of them, make sure you cover as much skin as possible – wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, jeans, shoes, etc. – then spray them using a wasp or hornet insecticide spray can that shoots from several feet away so you can stay as far away as possible.
Find wasp nests on your property by keeping a lookout for the burrow entries they fly in and out off. Then saturate the burrow entries with insecticide spray or insecticide dust at dawn, just before these wasps wake and fly off for the day. Make sure you don’t hang around in the area – you don’t want angry wasp survivors exacting revenge.
If you have a wasp infestation on your property and have difficulty locating their burrows, get in touch with a professional pest control company to get rid of them safely and thoroughly for you.
Bees are flying insects known for their role in pollination. They’re closely related to wasps and, you may be surprised to know, ants. There are over 16,000 known species of bees and they are found in every continent except Antarctica.
The most commonly known bee species are social and therefore are territorial – they will sting to protect their colony from any perceived danger, though there are plenty of other bees that operate solo and essentially just want to be left alone.
Arizona is home to many social bees including honey bees. They have brownish gold hair all over their body and have black stripes on their abdomen, and can grow to around ¾ of an inch in length.
According to the University of Florida, up to 90% of all bees in Arizona are Africanized Honey Bees (originally produced by cross-breeding East African lowland honey bees to various European honey bees). The Africanized honey bee, known colloquially as the killer bee, is much more defensive than other varieties of honey bee and reacts to disturbances more aggressively and often attack in large swarms.
Regular honey bees aren’t usually much of a threat, but they will still sting you if they perceive you as a danger to their hive and colony.
Bumblebees have round bodies covered in soft hair, and have black and orange, yellow, or white bands on their bodies. While honey bees have many stripes of yellow and black, bumblebees usually have blocks of color variable among species, most species having areas of black hair. They’re hairier, and their abdomens have a more rounded tip.
They can grow to be an inch long, typically bigger than honey bees, but their colonies are smaller, growing as few as 50 in a nest.
Unlike honey bees that can sting only once, bumblebees can sting multiple times. They are however not aggressive bees and generally ignore humans and animals alike unless they perceive a threat to their small colony.
Carpenter bees resemble honey bees, but typically have a shiny, black abdomen that lack hairs like the other two bees we’ve discussed. They’re bigger, growing up to be about an inch long. They have large jaws that help them chew through wood where they make their nests.
Also unlike the previous bees discussed, they are also traditionally considered solitary bees, though a mother and her daughters may cohabit. In this scenario, a division of labor occurs where they share in foraging and nesting duties, or one does all the foraging and nesting while the others guard.
They’re docile and rarely sting unless directly provoked. Male carpenter bees may approach other animals, but they’re harmless as they cannot sting.
Bees are essential to the planet. While there are others that help cross-pollinate flowers and plants such as birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles, bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 1/6 of the world’s flowering plant species. They’re responsible for pollinating billions of dollars’ worth of crops, and produce more than a hundred million dollars’ worth of honey.
If you find bees or a hive on your property, get in touch with an expert for help.
You’re outside on the porch, enjoying a cup of coffee when you hear the lazy drone of a flying insect nearby. You might think nothing of it, maybe absentmindedly swat at it before you feel that hot, stinging, and likely familiar pain.
In 2001 to 2010, an estimated 10.1 million Americans visited emergency departments for non-canine bite and sting injuries, and that doesn’t account for everyone that just stayed at home while their faces were red and swollen!
As you take one last look at the culprit merrily buzzing away, you might wonder – was it a bee, or a wasp?
Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the two.
If you were stung more than once, it was likely a wasp. Female bees can sting only once (male bees don’t), as it is ultimately fatal for them when their stinger gets ripped from their bodies and left in ours – but wasps can sting multiple times to their hearts content, and they’re also by far the more aggressive
creatures, often chasing their prey for hundreds of yards.
While both are territorial, and while bees do sting when provoked, they tend to focus on flowers and not on people peacefully sipping coffee on their porch.
Both bees and wasps belong to the insect order Hymenoptera. There are more than 100,000 species of wasps, including the common yellow jacket wasp that can be found in Arizona. They have yellow and black stripes, and are often mistaken for honey bees. In fact, most experts think that people coming in to complain about a honey bee sting, were in fact bitten by a yellow jacket.
While both insects are yellow with black markings, wasps are shinier, have a brighter yellow color, and thinner waist. They have smoother bodies, while bees are hairier. They also have rounder legs versus the flatter legs honey bees have.
As for their nests, wasps have no wax-producing glands so instead they create nests that are a paper-like substance from wood pulp. Bees on the other hand build their hives in cavities that are protected from the elements, like hollow walls, trees or attics. When honey bees build their nests in your home, the damage done isn’t usually structural – however, when they do leave to find a new home, the honey and wax comb left behind will ruin drywall,
insulation and sliding, so it’s always best to ask an expert.
While most people know bees are essential to the environment, not all wasps are bad – wasps can act as a natural pest control, preying on crop-killing insects. So if you find what you think are honey bees or wasps on your porch, make sure you have an expert come by and take a look – so you can sip your coffee in peace.